Reading

Published: 11 March, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 189, August, 2010

Many people predicted the rise of tattooing in popular culture was a fad and that interest would soon drop off. Despite the tough ride the economy has had in the last eighteen months, the surge in popularity of getting tattooed shows no sign of following in the footsteps of the bankers. Alongside this we have seen a rise in the number of new conventions, which has led to some people asking, “Do we need yet another tattoo convention?” The answer depends on what you want from a convention; just as the music and lifestyle magazines on the newsstands cater to different tastes, so can conventions.


There is an argument against having too many conventions; you can only attract a finite number of impressive tattooists before you risk each convention being a copy of another. The same goes for bands; how many festivals can they play before reaching saturation in any given year?

 

Reading festival caters for a wide range of tastes and has been successful for many years. In some ways it begs us to ask why Reading hasn't got its own tattoo convention? 

 

No Limits Tattoos and piercing has taken on the task of giving Reading its first tattoo convention. Understanding how easy it is to access London from Reading, the organisers seem to have decided not to try to compete with the bigger, established conventions (such as London International Convention and Liverpool Tattoo convention, which was happening on the same day). Instead they have focussed on putting on a one-day event, with live entertainment and a distinctly relaxed air about the place. The event itself had a feeling of intimacy that other conventions can lack and had a family-friendly atmosphere. This is a refreshing change to the hustle-and-bustle we have come to expect from conventions and could be the key to the future success of the Reading convention.

 

Regardless of the laid-back atmosphere, the event wasn’t lacking in visitors. With nearly three quarters of the tickets sold as pre-sale, it definitely had people’s attention despite a lack of publicity. Less than an hour after the doors opened, the convention was humming with activity.

 

One of the benefits of attending smaller conventions is a chance to see the work of artists you don’t already know about, as well as have a quick chat with them. 

 

Walking round the convention, it was pleasing to see a variety of artists working in and offering plenty of different styles. The artists themselves had come from around the country – Ouch tattoos had come down from London, Cherub Tattoo Parlour from Wiltshire, Arron Willett of Portsmouth and some artists from much further afield (including those flying a Scottish flag). It was also a pleasure to see the guys from Cutthroat Tattoo out and busy at their station, as were the artists from Ink in 2 Skin and also Eternal Tattoo. Chris Cougar (of No Limits Tattoo) may win his own award for most amusing sign of the day reading; “What the fuck is Miami Ink and London Ink?”

 

The crowd itself comprised of everyone from casual observers, to the most heavily tattooed along with new and old tattoo fans and many families, where the parents were able to proudly display their ink while looking at the portfolios and keeping their children entertained.

 

In the afternoon, the entertainment was supplied by two musical acts: the first of these was a Reading based band called Junction XIII whom are self confessed ‘trash rawkers’. Looking like a cross between the Backyard Babies and Steel Panther, the band blasted through an entertaining set of songs inspired by the same trashy rockset. They proved an enjoyable distraction and many in the crowd stayed to watch their entire set, which was enjoyable despite the singer feeling the need to constantly share with the crowd how his choice of ‘medication’ kicked in halfway through the set, followed by trying to spit water over the photographers (and missing I’m pleased to report). Those attempts at rock and roll excess might impress the under eighteens, but failed to endear those watching the act. Music like this is never going to appeal to everyone but is the kind of party rock and roll that complements the atmosphere that a tattoo convention has.

 

The results of the judging were up next and having spotted some of the art lined up earlier for the competition I was eagerly waiting to find out who had won. I was not surprised to see that the Seth (Attattooed) won ‘best backpiece’ for the peacock inspired art he was tattooing on Lauren. It is only a shame we were not able to see all the other pieces (I guess we are getting used to being spoilt by huge video displays at the larger conventions). Again, this convention served to remind us that there are plenty of good tattooists outside of the London area and that this is a good opportunity to check out lots of different artists portfolios, all in one place. It certainly beats travelling from shop to shop! 

 

Once the awards had been given out, we returned to the entertainment, this time provided by MC’s Switch, Smiley, Data and Killa boi. An entertaining and competent crew, they delivered their material in a confident and almost flawless manner. Unfortunately, in combination with the searing heat and having gone on just after the competition winners were announced, many of the crowd felt they needed to go outside and catch some fresh air. However, the boys kept going and entertained the members of the crowd who remained to watch them. Once they had finished their set, the convention slowly started to wind up, with various satisfied attendees making their way to their cars.

 

As a fledgling convention it did really well, but wasn’t without its flaws; the lack of a dedicated website and event publicity didn’t seem to harm the ticket sales, but didn’t help the event either. This may have been a deliberate move by the organisers to let the convention develop its own identity before pushing it on the masses. For the majority of people the on-site catering would be fine, but as vegetarians we were forced to look elsewhere for food (unless you count a token gesture salad as adequate catering), in 2010 I would have expected a greater variety, especially when you consider the location of the event gave you few options to eat elsewhere. The competition judging went without a hitch, although there were some complaints that it was being judged too early in the afternoon for some of the artists and collectors to submit their fresh ink for entry into ‘best of day’. These minor niggles didn’t make or break the event and can easily be ironed out in time for next year’s convention.

 

I sincerely hope they do plan to run this convention for a second year, as it has a lot of potential to develop into an event that is worth making the time in your calendar to attend. Whether or not the future of tattoo conventions in the UK involves smaller, more intimate events complementing the larger ‘blockbuster’ long weekend conventions or if the public gets ‘convention fatigue’ and the number shrinks, will be decided over the next couple of years by the choices the public make. 


Full Winners list as given by the organisers

BEST SMALL - JESSE BY SETH, ATTATTOOED

BEST LARGE - SIM BY LEIGH OLDCORN, COSMIC TATTOO

BEST BLACK/SKIN - ARRAN BURTON BY LEE OLDCORN, COSMIC TATTOO

BEST BACKPIECE - LAUREN BY SETH, ATTATTOOED

BEST IN SHOW - IAN ROYAL BY ANDY THOMPSON, ANDY THOMPSON TATTOO STUDIO

BEST PORTRAIT - KATHY WARD BY IAN, NO LIMITS

BEST SLEEVE - PAUL BY JAMES, WOODY’S TATTOO STUDIO

BEST BACKPIECE - IRISH MICK BY IAN, NO LIMITS

Credits

TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY Al Overdrive

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Skin Deep 189 24 August 2010 189
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